Reading of the Week: Can We Predict Relapse in Depression? The Judd et al. Paper from The American Journal of Psychiatry

From the Editor

Is he going to get sick again?

It’s a question that we often ask when a patient overcomes depression and happily leaves our office. For many patients, depression is a chronic illness – and so, remission is followed by relapse. Is it possible to predict patients with depression who are in remission but at risk of relapse?

Can we predict a future relapse – or is this an exercise in fortune-telling?

This week’s Reading is a paper from The American Journal of Psychiatry. Drawing on a long-term study, they look at the pattern of acute illness, remission, and relapse. Using statistical analyses, the authors seek to find a way of predicting relapse.

Spoiler alert: they do.

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Reading of the Week: The Best of 2016 (and a Look Ahead to 2017)

From the Editor

It’s a Reading of the Week tradition that we end the year by considering the best of the previous 12 months.

And this year we have had great material to consider. Readings were drawn from diverse publications, including journals, but also newspapers and magazines; one Reading was a speech given by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. (On the rich diversity of material, I made a similar comment last year.)

If once no one seemed to discuss mental illness, today these issues are being talked about.

But instead of just looking back, let’s take a moment to look ahead.

For those of us concerned about mental health services, 2017 looks like it will be a great year.

Consider:

· Though the provinces and the federal government failed to make an historic deal in 2016 that would invest in mental health services, federal and provincial ministers of health all agree that mental health needs to be a priority, and some type of deal is likely to happen.

· In 2016, Starbucks Canada made headlines for its investment in mental health benefits for employees; it’s highly likely that other companies will follow this lead in the coming months.

· In the past year, more people spoke out about their mental health problems, including a famous singer and an Olympic swimmer; in 2017, more people will find their voice and share their stories.

So – Happy New Year.

Thanks to all those who made suggestions for Readings. And thanks to Dr. David Goldbloom for his three guest contributions, as well as to my father and to my wife for their editing.

There will be no Reading next week.

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Reading of the Week: Remembering Dr. Elliot Goldner

From the Editor

I met him just once. Dr. Elliot Goldner was invited to give the Distinguished Member Lecture at the Canadian Psychiatric Association’s 2015 Annual Conference in Vancouver. Before a packed room, he gave a lucid speech on the state of the system – a speech peppered with insights and statistics, drawn from numerous papers; it was mesmerizing. After, he stayed to talk with people, and I joined the group that had gathered. Late for my own presentation, I received angry texts from my co-presenter. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to talk further about the access issues that he had so clearly discussed.

But if we met just once, over the years, I have read many of the papers that Dr. Goldner wrote and co-wrote. A Goldner paper – like a Goldner presentation – is impressive and memorable.

Dr. Goldner died in late November.

Dr. Elliot Goldner

In this Reading, we look at his life and career through the comments of some colleagues. We also consider his 2011 Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper on access and psychiatry.

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Reading of the Week: Does Psychiatry Need Rebranding?

From the Editor

Is psychiatry in need of rebranding?

Time for a new name?

It’s easy to think about the incredible progress our field has made in the past decades: the rise of more evidence-based treatments; the fading of stigma; the political dialogue that has begun.

But is “psychiatry” holding psychiatry back? That is, is our old name cutting into our new reality.

In this week’s Reading, we take a look at a short but provocative blog that argues for a rebranding.

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Reading of the Week: The Future of Psychiatry – Part II of II

From the Editor

Is mental health becoming too technical (and forgetting patients as a result)?

The future of us clinicians?

This is the second Reading in a two-part series considering the future of mental health – not in terms of distant developments like biomarkers and genetically-tailored drugs – but rather by looking at measurement-based care and the evolution of the field.

Last week, measurement-based care.

This week, the end of the art of care?

This week, we look at an editorial The British Journal of Psychiatry that warns against physicians becoming “well treated skilled workers.”

And, continuing the consideration of ‘the future,’ we also consider a new paper that has received much attention. Can a web-based intervention help with insomnia? Spoiler alert – as The New York Times reported last week, “more than half of chronic insomniacs who used an automated online therapy program reported improvement within weeks and were sleeping normally a year later.”

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Reading of the Week: The NEJM on “Our Struggle to Care for People with Serious Mental Illness”

From the Editor

What can we do for those with severe mental illness?

Homelessness: can we do better?

This week, we look at a series of excellent essays that have run on mental illness in The New England Journal of Medicine. They are well written and insightful. We particularly focus on the first of the three essays, which considers treatment and rights.

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Reading of the Week: The New CANMAT Guidelines for Depression

From the Editor

What’s new in depression treatment?

The new guidelines

This week, we look at the new CANMAT guidelines. Published in September in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, the papers – six in all – speak to the latest in depression management.

What should you think about the new antidepressants? What alternatives are there to CBT? What to do when everything else fails? Spoiler alert: this week’s Reading answers all these questions and more.

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Reading of the Week: The Placebo Effect and Antidepressants

From the Editor

Is the placebo effect getting stronger with time?

image001Placebo pills – greater importance?

Since the first writings of English physician John Haygarth at the turn of the 19th century, the placebo effect is something well documented and well discussed – but not well understood. How can people respond to sugar pills and the like?

Even more oddly, the placebo effect seems to be changing with time, at least in terms of antidepressant medications. In a classic paper published about a decade and a half ago, Walsh et al. found that the placebo effect was getting more pronounced over the years. Dr. Timothy Walsh joked in a Washington Post interview that “[t]hey’re making placebos better and better.” Besides being an interesting finding, there are larger issues – start with the implications to drug development. After all, if the placebo effect is rising, it becomes more challenging to develop a drug that bests it.

Have things changed since the publication of the Walsh et al. paper?

In this week’s Reading, we consider the new Furukawa et al. paper. This study, which reviewed 250 plus randomized controlled trials that involved more than 26,000 patients and included unpublished data, found that the placebo effect isn’t increasing. Also in the Reading: an editorial commenting on the Furukawa et al. paper.

Please note – there will be no Reading next week.

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“Mental Health Now!”

From the Editor

Will they cut a deal?

Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins speaks during a health ministers’ meeting last week in Toronto

It’s the question that will be discussed for weeks to come.

But for those of us in mental health, a possible deal is more than an item on the evening news. After all, a new federal-provincial accord could be important, with more money for mental health services. And let’s remember: right now, just 7 cents on every dollar of health spending goes to mental health (in the UK, by contrast, spending is 12 cents on the dollar).

But we hope for more than just a new deal. We hope for a smart new deal – one that will help improve mental health services.

What are steps the federal government could take?

This week’s Reading considers the new report issued by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (or CAMIMH), an alliance of sixteen member organizations, including the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Medical Association, and the College of Family Physicians of Canada. This thoughtful document lays out a five-point plan for bettering mental health services from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Spoiler alert: the plan calls for more spending, yes, but also efforts to improve access, better measurement of the system, and a targeted basic income to help less affluent Canadians.

Also in this reading – tying back to the UK – we look at an article from The Guardian about making mental health services stronger across the Atlantic.

The two pieces offer a strong contrast: about where our debate is in this country – and where mental health services could be with some needed reforms.

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Reading of the Week: First Episode Psychosis and Access – The Anderson-Kurdyak Paper, and More

From the Editor

“If your son or daughter had cancer or diabetes, do you think it would be reasonable for them to wait? I don’t think it’s any different for mental illness.”

Access. It’s one of the biggest problems with mental health services.

How big is the access problem? What can be done about it?

This week, we consider a new paper looking at access and first episode psychosis. Dr. Paul Kurdyak, a CAMH psychiatrist and a program lead with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, made the above comment to the CBC when discussing this new paper. In it, Kelly Anderson and Dr. Kurdyak find that 40% of patients didn’t receive physician follow-up in the month after diagnosis. Imagine – tying back to Dr. Kurdyak’s comment – if 40% of young patients with leukemia didn’t have physician follow-up in a month after their cancer diagnosis.

We also look at the discussion around a new federal-provincial accord with an op ed written by Michael Wilson, the chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada – particularly timely as the ministers of health met this week with an eye on a new accord.

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